RALEIGH — Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of Republican activists on Oct. 6 at the North Carolina Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh. Her appearance was part of the party’s “Family First Forum” series, which has brought national figures such as RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and others to the state.
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley introduced Blackburn, saying there was no better champion in the U.S. Senate for family values.
Whatley also laid out what he said was the difference between Democrats and Republicans going into the final stretch of the 2022 midterms.
“Republicans are talking about issues voters care about – gas, groceries, inflation, safety and education. Democrats are talking about issues Democrats care about,” he said.
Stepping to the podium, Blackburn shared stories she has heard from families, saying that inflation was the #1, #2, and #3 most important issue. She recounted a story about a mother in Memphis, saying it was important that families have a say in politics, in education, and that “mamas will protect their children.”
Blackburn also touched on gas prices in her speech.
“On January 20, 2021, President Biden declared war on the oil and gas industry in this country,” she said, noting the most recent releases of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve following a production cut announcement from OPEC.
The SPR is already at a generational low, with Reuters reporting that the current levels are the lowest since 1984.
Blackburn also said the ripple effects of inflation amount to taking $7,800 from the budget of each family and inflation is also hurting food banks and farmers while noting many of the same industries in Tennessee affect North Carolinians – agriculture and manufacturing.
Following her speech, North State Journal sat down exclusively with Blackburn to discuss her recent trip to Taiwan and the latest from Washington.
In late August she completed a tour of several Pacific Island nations including Taiwan, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.
Blackburn noted that Taiwan is similar to the United States in many ways, saying the country has a constitution, a founding father, a president, a parliament, a military, and “They want us to recognize that they have fought very hard to, maintain their independence.”
Upon returning from her trip, she said she was pleased that the White House agreed to a $1.1 billion sale of defensive mechanisms and artillery the country needed.
Blackburn said North Carolina specifically could play a large part in ensuring that Taiwan’s technology companies can continue to grow and compete.
“One thing I do think is significant when you look at the work that is done here in North Carolina and you look at this part of the state and you look at the importance of technology, what we don’t want to do is have everything end up in China. We need to continue to work with Taiwan to grow their industrial base,” she said. “We know that Taiwan looks to Japan New Zealand, Australia, and us (United States) as preferred partners.”
Blackburn also said that if China is successful in bullying Taiwan, there would be a domino effect across the Indo-Pacific.
Another topic Blackburn addressed was illegal immigration and the ongoing crisis at the southern border, saying, “We need to work with Border Patrol to give them what they need. For 30 years they’ve been saying ‘We need a barrier to secure the border where we can’t get a barrier. We need technology and we need more officers and agents.’”
Blackburn noted that 3.6 million people have come across the border since Biden took office, and nearly a million “gotaways” on top of that number. She said that lawlessness has driven drug and crime problems and made it a national security issue.
“Security is an enormous issue. Security moms are not happy right now with what they’re seeing out of Washington,” said Blackburn. “And so those are all things that would begin to have an impact on reigning in this administration and they’re overreach.
Blackburn also talked about education post-COVID and how it was a “silver lining” of sorts to see parents becoming more involved.
Earlier in her forum speech, she alluded to parental rights and how taking on teachers’ unions and entrenched bureaucratic interests was part of Republicans’ family first values.
She took aim at the Justice Department, saying that the Biden administration decided parents needed to be investigated for attending school board meetings, but not known criminals.
“Parents need to continue to speak out,” she said in the interview. “Last weekend I talked to two women. One’s a grandmom, one is a mom, they have decided to run for school board. Yesterday in Memphis, I talked to one dad and two moms that are out there running for school board because they have decided that if you’re going to change the policy, you have to change the people.”
Blackburn said added that there “are a lot of great teachers out there, but we have teachers’ unions that are not holding the education of children as their first priority.”
Ending the interview, Blackburn responded a question about one her more famous constituents, singer Taylor Swift. In a Netflix documentary, she expressed her support for Democrats and in particular, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who Blackburn defeated in the 2018 race.
“You know what, I am perfectly happy with Taylor Swift. She is a talented young lady,” Blackburn said. “I am thrilled that she has Nashville as her home, her musical home, her work is done out of Nashville. Taylor was given bad information and I think if she and I had the opportunity to sit down and visit, she probably would figure out she was given bad information.”